Friday, June 17, 2011

As a dog returns to its vomit.

The proverb reads, "As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly." (Proverbs 26:11)

Animals are gross. They eat anything. They are just nasty, especially the ones here. Meat here tastes like garbage because that's what most animals eat.

But I have a theory that humans are grosser.

I have been SO frustrated with, well, pretty much everyone lately. My kids, my family, my staff… not my friends so much (unless you count my friends who are also part of my staff, then yes, I will count that.)

I am just tired of people being FOOLISH. Now, I will warn you ahead of time that this is going to start off as a great big gripe session, but hang in there, because I do have a point. (Well, at least at this point in the game I do… let's see what happens when I finish my griping.)

There's this one mom that Nick and I really want to work with to help. She's single mom of 5 kids and she's, well, she's a mess. She claims to be a really good cook and she wants to start a small food business in the camp she lives in because she thinks she can make some money. She just needs a little start up. We WANT to help her but we have this one sticking point. See, her tent is ALWAYS filthy. Now, I get that it's rainy season and she lives in a camp, but it is SO dirty in there that I seriously just want to puke. Even though I give her diapers all the time, she never diapers her babies. I will go over and the babies will be lying in their own urine and filth on the floor. Chickens will be walking around closed up tent. There will be dozens of clean diapers stacked in the corner and yet the babies will be naked. The smell is horrific and she NEVER opens up the tent to get air. The walls are moldy and mildew-y. Now, I GET that she lives in a camp. But so do the 200 other families around her. They are in transitional housing (meaning she has a concrete floor and half-walls and a breathable tent with ventilation.) Granted, not an ideal place to raise 5 kids, but so much better than a lot of families have it in Haiti these days. Hers is, without question, the filthiest tent of anyone I know in this camp. And her kids are ALWAYS sick. (Duh, of course they are.)

So I want to help her, but I don't feel like I can give her money to start a food-making business in her tent when the conditions are so unsanitary. So, first things first. I asked her if I could help her clean things up. She said she didn't have soap. So one day I went out and bought laundry soap, bleach, bar soap and general cleanser. I bought her a broom and watched the babies for her one morning so she could clean things up. I came back every 3 hours for her to nurse the babies and at the end of the day she had done almost nothing. She promised me that the next day she'd clean up and wash the laundry. But she didn't. This has been going on for weeks now. I tell her that whenever she's ready to get things cleaned up, I am ready to help her get her business started. I GET that is super "white" of me. But it's really not meant to be a "my way or the highway" kind of thing. It's more, "I want to help you but we need to work together on this." There's always a reason why she can't clean up. Or why she can't take her kids to the doctor (even if I give her the money.) There's always a reason why she needs food or medicine or diapers or… whatever. She's ALWAYS calling me. But she's not willing to do the things she needs that I've asked her to do so that we can work together.

There's another lady in the same camp. Not going to go into the whole story, but someone I know just recently helped her escape from her abusive boyfriend. They have a small infant together and he's been beating her (like black and blue beating her) and bringing a 14 year old girl in the tent to have sex with. A friend of mine came up with a safe house solution for her and they made a daring night-time escape with the mom/baby. A week later, in spite of being fed and housed, given employment opportunities and a community to support her, she left the safe house and went back to live in the tent with her abusive boyfriend.



One of my kids keeps getting in trouble for the same thing. Over and over. And over and over and over. And I am just getting tired of it.


It is totally maddening.

And here I am-- sitting on my high horse wondering these things at the same time I am eating ANOTHER pack of Combos. The same time I am saying to myself, "I am tired of being sick. I need to eat better and exercise more. Tomorrow. I am totally going to start that tomorrow. And also tomorrow I am going to get my email inbox down to zero. I am going to spend more intentional time with my kids. I am going to read my Bible. First thing tomorrow morning. But I'd better go to bed early tonight so I am prepared."

It seems like EVERY single day I have this conversation with myself. Tomorrow. For SURE tomorrow. Or maybe Monday… Or the first of July sounds like a good time to get my mess together. But then it's the beginning of the hottest month of the year. So… probably the first of September. Well, actually, the kids don't go back to school until the end of September. So the first of October. Except that I am going on vacation with some friends in October and so that's a really bad time to try to start eating healthier because vacation is a time to celebrate. So November. For sure November. Oh crap-- Thanksgiving. What's that you say? Haitians don't celebrate Thanksgiving? Well I am American and I do. (Some people are so unpatriotic.) So December. But why start something like this right at the beginning of holiday season?

January first it is.

Sounds like a plan.

Y'all. I am a LOSER. I can come up with an excuse for ANYTHING when it comes to something I don't want to do. It's ridiculous. And in my head it's always, "Next time."

So WHY am I judging those around me when I still wear an 18/20 size jeans? Why can't I just get my mess together and do the things I need to do to be a successful individual?

Why not? Because as a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool returns to his foolishness.

So here's to all of us stepping into the grace to step out of our own vomit. The single mom with the dirty tent. The abused girl with battered wife syndrome. Me and my stupid obsession with food issues. You and your issues with ___________.

It is ONLY through grace that we can step out of our folly.
PS- I wrote this yesterday and when I went to see the mom today she'd cleaned up her tent. (I told you I am all up on a high horse.)


  1. how can there be no comments on this post? What THA? Gwenn -- I so appreciate that you are able to look at the world the way you do ... you'll never be the "poor Gwenn" Victim type person because you are far too introspective and honest about things. I admire you very much for having the nuts (missionary language) to post this.

    much love- we shall rendezvous in Jacmel very soon!

  2. P.S -
    While I so love the heart behind this post - I'm not thinking your jean size determines if you are a successful individual - but I know you don't mean that totally literally ... and I am with you - I always say I am going to be more committed to reading my Bible - or committed at all.... and I continually fail. :( I guess we both need Jesus and his mercy.

  3. skinny people TOTALLY have it all together. Tara is one example of that.


    Your fellow chubby friend,

    PS dang good post

  4. While reading your post, I was smacked by the memory of an old church kids' musical by David T. Clydesdale called "Don't Give Up." One of the songs is about Bernard, who always gives up too soon. I thought I'd share the words with you:

    "Today is Monday
    So I can’t do anything ‘til Tuesday
    So I guess I’ll start on Wednesday
    But Wednesday’s my day off

    There’s always Thursday
    But I’d rather wait ‘til Friday
    And I sleep late on Saturday
    On Sunday I play golf

    So I’d better wait awhile I could use some rest
    Oh next week is too soon I think that next year would be best

    Maybe when I’m not so tired
    I’ll find a job get hired
    But what if I get fired?
    Oh then where will I be?

    So I guess I won’t go
    Besides I’ve got this sore toe
    And someone’s gotta watch the grass grow
    And I think it should be me."

    To which the kids in the cast respond: "You don't seem to understand the message that we bring. So listen one more time to the important song we sing:

    (The title song)
    "Don't give up
    Don't step aside
    Don't run and hide, remember
    Don't give in
    'Cuz soon you're gonna win

    Don't turn back
    Keep running the race
    Let Him set the pace
    You've got to
    Just hold on!
    And keep your eyes on Him."

    So, thanks for the memory, and here's what will get you through: Keep pushing, keep trying, keep your eyes on God, and good things WILL happen. For you and your family, for the lady in the tent, for the abused girl, and for all of us whose jeans size starts with a two (and has more than one digit.)

    --Joy in California

  5. I am totally gonna write a meaningful comment about how much I relate to this post . . .

    . . . tomorrow.

  6. Fellow loser here! I ask myself every day why I can't just do what I'm supposed to do, even the easy stuff like being nice to my husband and kids! Thanks for reminding me there is grace to help me step out of my own vomit!

  7. Thank you for your honesty. I think when you are navigating another culture, it is also very easy to get frustrated and even angry with others and with yourself. At least it is for me. Bless you on this journey.

  8. Great read- thanks for sharing!

  9. Have some fun with this song.

  10. So needed to hear this in so many ways....I am always contemplating the things of tomorrow that I need to do. Thank you! Debi

  11. Why is it that it's so easy for us to know what "help" other people need but fail to see the plank in our eyes? Thank you for this today. We should remember this every day. May you be blessed!

  12. Thanks you for posting the truth about what so many of us feel...and struggle with! Here's to tomorrow...or October. Thank God His mercies are new everyday.
    Blessings to you.

  13. Well said! And well done! (She did clean up her tent :) )

  14. It's sad that vomit draws us back so easily! But not sad that you have reminded of the truth...that it's grace that pulls away and grace that gives us the freedom to say "no" to the vomit.

    Thanks for this post!


  15. You are so right. Thanks for the reminder of how grace covers my mess (including my judgement of other people's messes)
    Brian Lloyd

  16. I read this yesterday morning. It was great to wake-up to (mobile Google Reader is awesome). It resonated with me; it played on my mind all day. I'm writing about it today (go figure). I hope you don't mind, especially since you do not know me, but I'm linking to your post. If you prefer me to remove the link, please don't hesitate to contact me. sanitysrchr at cfl dot rr dot com

    Thank you! :)

  17. someday, sometime, some of us get to where we want to change ourselves. until that time, we want to change everyone else. or die trying. life with dysfunctional people....or at least that is what my friends tell me! when I feel lost a bit, I read posts from Haitian missionaries, and life seems better again. reminds me to think 2x about what I want in life!!

  18. Needed this today... yesterday... tomorrow. Glad Tara sent us here. Great post....

  19. oh you're right! good catch. I am always confusing my Seymour brothers. I will fix....


Hey y'all. Allowing comments now after a long time of not. Please be respectful.